With this year's edition of the Common Law Admission Test (CLAT 2021) around the corner, final preparations are under way.
Bar & Bench spoke to top rank holders of the last two editions of the exam to give our readers insight into the strategies they adopted to ace the exam.
Preparation strategies a few weeks before CLAT
“The last few days and weeks should be focused on revision rather than picking up new things to learn afresh. Especially brushing up those topics and sections which one has a strong hold on, so that at least when questions pertaining to them appear in the exam, one is in a position to handle them well.
Apart from that, you can list down frequently asked topics from the 5 sections and start revising them one by one so you can closely monitor your revision level."
Preparing for Current Affairs and Legal Reasoning
"Both these sections cover current happenings. For legal, the only difference is that the focus is on legal news - like Supreme Court judgments or amendments made, legislation passed, etc. The idea is to pick up 8-9 topics per month from the last 10 months and study them thoroughly right from the origin to its relevance in the current times.
One does not need to read up every newspaper and cover up all the topics - not everything is so relevant. For Legal and GK, some recommended websites that really help are LiveMint and The Wire. The Hindu editorial for Critical Reasoning and English section helps to increase attention span and refine one’s comprehension skills."
On mock tests and sectional preparation
"In the last few days and weeks leading up to the exam, there should be less emphasis on mocks and one must practice more on sectional tests. Mocks may be an indicator of one’s preparation, but lower scores in the last few mocks can negatively impact the morale of an aspirant. So it is advisable to gain more control on specific sections than wasting much time on mocks. Sectional tests are less hectic and one can easily cover 2-3 such tests in a day without getting very drained."
On the pattern change and devising strategies accordingly
"The pattern changed for the better - there are fewer questions than before, and the questions are more comprehension-based. So, if a person has presence of mind and good reading ability, it is very doable. The pattern is much easier than before, so aspirants don’t need to worry about the difficulty level.
But it is all about how your brain works during those 2 hours of the exam. So for that, I used to train my brain to get accustomed to solving tests or mocks or revising some portion during 2-4 pm, which was the timing expected for the exam. This is very important so that one’s mind is trained to be very focused during that time. Plus, good sleep is extremely important - else concentration will be lower and one may end up with lesser scores than one is capable of.
Patience is the key. If you don’t get a question or don’t remember what you read, it is important to not panic. Panic can prove to be disastrous for an exam like CLAT and can make one commit more mistakes."
"While starting off the paper, it is important to always begin with a section one is most comfortable with. This will help boost one's confidence level right at the beginning. During mock tests, I always attempted the GK section first, but it depends from person to person based on their individual strengths.
However, there might be a chance that there are tougher questions in the section one would generally be comfortable with. At that moment, you must get flexible with your strategy and quickly find a section you are more comfortable with to start. It is important to not have very rigid time boundaries, but there should be a rough estimate of time allocated to each section and it is important to not exceed the hard limit of that estimate."
General tips and advice
"Since most questions are comprehensive in nature, it is advisable to first read the questions and then move on to the passage so one has a fair idea what part of the passage needs to be focused on. For current affairs, do not read the entire passage. Read the first 2-3 lines to understand what the topic is about and then move to the questions and select the correct options. Since there is no comprehension in current affairs, one does not need to read up the entire passage and waste time.
Maintain your cool, sleep well, stay healthy and hydrated."
Positive manifestation of goals
"When I was preparing, I had posters of National Law School of India University (NLSIU) and All India Bar logos on the wall adjacent to my table. When you think about what you want the entire day and work towards it, it actually helps your brain to support you during preparations and throughout the process."
Preparation strategies adopted in the last month before the exam
"During the last few weeks before CLAT, I studied for about 8-10 hours. Maybe 10+ on some days. But none of this time was spent on learning new concepts. Instead, I went back and revised my basics. I started doing basic math concepts from IndiaBix.com and revised past months' GK.
For English, I revised with books like Word Power Made Easy and other vocabulary books by quickly skimming through them. They went by in a few sessions. I also kept practicing logic and legal reasoning on a daily basis."
Mock tests and analysis
"I gave mocks and conducted mock analysis on alternate days. So 3-4 mocks a week in the last few months. In total though, I believe I gave around 80-100 mocks throughout my 2 years of preparation. I reduced the frequency of mock tests in the last 2 weeks. It is extremely important to choose the last mocks carefully and try to do them well. The scores of these last mocks tend to affect one’s confidence and state of mind tremendously.
I gave my last CLAT mock around 5-6 days before CLAT. You should be itching to give a test on the day of CLAT. Build up and preserve the energy and enthusiasm for the D-day."
Developing coping mechanisms to beat the stress
"It is crucial to keep one's coping mechanisms ready to deal with the stress and extended study hours. I used to listen to music and jog daily. On the actual exam days of CLAT and AILET, I did not study and I would recommend the same to aspirants. I watched football videos on YouTube instead, and got a massage.
Mental peace and calmness on the exam day is essential. Do the things you love, spend some time with your loved ones. I listened to music on my way to the centre. There is little change that you can bring into your overall preparation in one day. Instead, try getting in your happy zone."
Mock test and preparation during last two weeks before exam
“Aspirants must solve mock tests as much as possible, but attempt them without getting too affected with the results, as it may affect your confidence. Keep revising GK notes prepared from the past 1 year and pay attention to the GK questions in the mock tests. Do not try to cram in new information during this time.
Consistency is the key and revising concepts already learnt is crucial. If you are confident about the concepts, be sure to revise them again from mock tests and analyze the mistakes made in the mock tests."
Maintaining composure during the exam
“Don't lose your confidence and panic if you don’t know the answers to some questions. Swiftly moving on to the next question is more important than spending too much time on something you are not sure of. Wandering during the time of exam can cost an aspirant heavily as the individual may not be able to attempt all the questions.”
Advantages of preparing for CLAT in advance
“Law school is all about smart work rather than hard work, and preparing for CLAT gives one a glimpse of this. The teachings in law school allow you to develop your critical ability and to think on your feet. This also reflects while participating in moots and negotiation competitions.”
Do not skip a section of the exam
“It is definitely not advisable to skip a section entirely. If one does this, the individual is consciously accepting to score lower and be admitted to a lower ranked NLU. To avoid this, one can start focusing on weaker sections early in the year and probably take the help of a coaching institute to back the preparation better.”
General tips and advice
“Generally, there is a tendency for aspirants to read multiple books while preparing for a particular section. What is more important is to go back to the books, concepts and questions most frequently asked and read them again, repeatedly focusing on the most important topics that have come up in the past question papers. Smart work will be really crucial for acing the preparation.”
Long-term preparation strategy
"I was a science student and had no plans to give CLAT until after 12th grade, when I went for Career Counselling. I took a drop year to only prepare for CLAT. Starting with the subjects I felt were difficult - Math and Logical Reasoning - I made sure my first 3-4 months were focused on these subjects and simultaneously, I was making GK compendiums of my own from The Hindu and Pratiyogita Darpan monthly magazine, which I kept doing until a month before CLAT."
Hacks and general tips
"For offline exams with OMR sheets, it is a good idea to use 0.77 mm pens which help fill the bubbles faster, leaving the aspirant with a few extra minutes to solve more questions.
Solve mock tests as much as possible during the timings when the exam is expected to be conducted, and also make sure to analyze all your attempted mock tests to understand your mistakes better. Go back to the theory and read up again."
How does preparing for CLAT prepare you for the law school journey?
"It definitely prepares one a lot. To begin with, in law school, one will be mooting, debating, writing articles and projects, for which English grammar and comprehension is a key skill. Legal Aptitude introduces you to the law and staying updated with current legal affairs helps you prepare better projects.
Needless to say, the entire law school experience, especially at NLUs, prepares you for grilling internships and jobs."
Preparation in the few weeks leading to the exam
“I made sure to continue solving mock tests even in the last month before CLAT. Along with solving it, I made sure to set aside time to analyze my mistakes in detail and revise the previously attempted mock tests.”
Time management and mindset during the exam
“I solved over 200 mock tests throughout my year-long preparation, so time management was easy, since I got a very good hang of things. However, on the day of CLAT 2020, I felt the paper was very lengthy. At that point, I kept reassuring myself with positive thoughts and with the confidence I gathered on solving as many mock tests in the past, that I would be able to complete the paper well and on time.
A positive and calm mindset is vital when appearing for CLAT.”
General tips and advice
“There is no need to stress while preparing for CLAT. It is important to reserve me-time to destress from the rigor of preparation. I made sure to watch movies even a few weeks before CLAT and that really helped me to unwind.
Giving mocks, analyzing and revising them is very important.
Preparing for CLAT is a very exciting and fulfilling journey, and any person who devotes themselves to CLAT preparation will see significant changes for the better in themselves, during the process and by the end of it."